Charles Allen: What is the best way to taper for a marathon?

Head of Physical Performance at Walk To Run, Charles Allen. Picture: Supplied

Head of Physical Performance at Walk To Run, Charles Allen. Picture: Supplied - Credit: Archant

Tapering for a marathon?

We all hear so many different ideas. Just looking around I can see anything from four weeks to seven days? So why such a big variation in opinion?

What I want to do is to help people to stop looking for a generic solution, one in your favourite magazine or runners blog, and start to think and assess what is right for you.

Firstly, I would be very honest about your daily life patterns.

If you are someone who does not have a very relaxed life and finds it hard to get time off your feet, then you are more likely to need longer to taper properly for a marathon.

It is not always about your training but sometimes it can be just as much about your lifestyle.

If you can spend evenings laying around at home, with very little commitment then you will be able to secure quality rest over the single parent who is juggling all the variables that other responsibilities can materialise.

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Sleep is so important and again if you tend to have poor sleep, I would advise a longer taper for a marathon.

Sleep is by far the best way to recharge the body. People who suffer from broken sleep patterns and insomnia miss valuable recovery.

I am self-employed, do not have children and have a wife that demands very little from me. It is the perfect environment for recovery. So, I tend to not panic and even have been known to only have a week of downtime.

If I still worked in the NHS and had the workload and responsibility as I did then it would be at least three weeks of gradually reduced training.

It is also important to evaluate how your training has gone.

If you have been pushing hard running up to 5/6 times a week then you will be carrying a lot of accumulative fatigue. This will only cause you issues on the day, you need to get rid of it.

Has your training gone to plan? Have you had an injury or nursing wounds? If so, again you will need to plot more rest days in between your training sessions to ensure tissues are healed by the big day.

MORE: Love running? Join the Run Anglia Facebook group hereIt would also be a good idea to seek the view of a professional therapist, physio or someone other than a friend.

It could make all the difference to the outcome. You have put all this effort into your training and only risk lining up on the start line with a niggle that will ensure a poor performance.

We always notice a surge in appointments around two weeks before a marathon.

People coming in with injures they have been carrying for weeks. It is often all too late. The discussions we then enter would have been more relevant 6-8 weeks before.

Remember tapering doesn't mean stop running but more managing a reduction of load and time commitment.

Add up your variables such a frequency of training, intensity of training and amount of time committed and gradually reduce them so that on the big day you feel fresh.

There is no right or wrong but the more you think about personal circumstances the more likely you are to get the result on the big day you are looking for.

Make it personal, make it specific to your needs and not just to fit in with others you are running with.

From observing the local running community, I believe many do not take enough time to taper properly.

The generic plans we see out there do not account for personal circumstance enough and often I see people completing busy shifts at work, never quite getting the down time they need to really perform on the day.

If you want to run well then you need to feel fresh and fighting fit on the day or what was the point of training anyway?

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